Social context and intention

Social context impacts the process of radicalization to violence and an individual’s intention to plan and carry out an act of violence.

Having the intention to commit acts of ideologically based violence is an essential element in assessing the risk posed by individuals. The belief in an ideology without the simultaneous intention to use unlawful violence or related action to achieve the desired goals reduces risk.

Elements relevant to the conscious intention to use and/or promote the use of violence to support an ideology are evaluated in this section of the VERA-2R.

Cultural and social contexts such as personal contacts, family, and close friendships can serve to encourage the use of violence to achieve ideological goals.

It is the ‘intention’ to act that distinguishes supporters and sympathizers from those who want to use violence to achieve ideological goals. Ideology and the intention to use violence are precursors to terrorism and other acts of violent extremism.

This first domain of the VERA-2R identifies seven possible indicators.

SCI1 Seeker, user or developer of violent extremist materials: Violent extremists, leaders and ideologues are often engaged in activity related to publicity, propaganda, fundraising, sharing information, recruitment, mobilization and planning and coordination of attacks. Digital environments play an important role in this (Conway, 2017; Akrami et al ,2021).

SCI2 Target for attack identified (person, group, location): the identification of a target is considered to increase the risk of a violent extremist or terrorist attack (Gill et al, 2018)

SCI3 Personal contact with violent extremists (informal or social context) can push one to take part in violent extremist acts (Sageman, 2008; Moskalenko & McCauley, 2017).

SCI4 Expressed intention to commit acts of violent extremism: This intention is not often expressed, but when it is expressed or ‘leaked’ it is worrisome (Meloy and Gill, 2016,  Shrestha et al, 2020).

SCI5 Expressed willingness and/or preparation to die for a cause or belief: This relates to the militant-extremist and terrorist theme of ‘glorification of dying for the higher cause’ (Saucier et al., 2009; Francis, 2016; Dawson & Amarasigam, 2017).

SCI6 Planning, preparation of acts of violent extremism: There are different aspect involved moving from planning to preparation and execution of terrorist violence (Taylor, 2010; Taylor & Horgan, 2006; Lindekilde et al, 2019; Schuurman et al 2018).

SCI7 Susceptibility to influence, control or indoctrination: There are several reasons why a subject is susceptible to influence or control by a leader or person that advocates acts of violent extremism (McCaulay & Moskalenko, 2008; 2017; Hofmann, 2016).